Pastors, Equip Your People

If you were tasked with writing the job description of your pastor, what would you include?  Fortunately, a description has already been outlined for us in Scripture.  Pastors are to pray for their people, preach and teach the Word of God, and are to lead by life and example.  Yet the Bible is also clear in its assertion that God’s men are not to do God’s work all by themselves.  They are to lead the way in making disciples by equipping their people to be involved in ministry.  One of the most important yet overlooked passages of the Bible is Ephesians 4:11-14:

“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”

Within this passage we find the most overlooked part of the job description for those God has called to shepherd and lead His church.  Instead of being professionals who do all the ministry themselves, these gifted men are to focus on equipping God’s people for works of service.  This is the essence of what it means to make disciples.  When pastors fail in this all-important task, the church is severely inhibited in her ministry effectiveness.  The lack of equipping and disciple-making in the modern church has resulted in a culture of consumerism.  Many pastors have become nothing more than entertainers and program pushers while their people continue in spiritual infancy and childhood.  Jesus never intended for His church to remain in perpetual immaturity.

The word Paul uses for “equip” in this passage was used to describe the setting of a bone.  It refers to that which is fit, restored to its original condition, and is being made complete.  Here the meaning is to “make fully ready” and is preparation for the work of the ministry.  One of the purposes of the pastor-teacher is to prepare, to equip, and to make believers ready for service.  A person who has been equipped is one who has been made ready for an assignment. Thus, the primary concern of the pastor ought to be for the filled seats, not so much the empty ones. When we make disciples who live their lives centered around the mission of Jesus, they will fill the empty seats with people they are leading to faith in Jesus Christ and inviting to the worship gathering of the church.  Discipleship is always the best method of evangelism.  When pastors focus on growing people, God will grow the church.

This begs the question, “How do pastors equip people?”  It most certainly involves expositional preaching and teaching from the pulpit, but it must not stop there.  He must embody in his life what he proclaims from week to week.  The faithful pastor must reproduce himself in the lives of those he leads.  He must personally invest himself in some faithful men who will be able to teach others also.  Instead of always focusing on how many are in attendance each week, he needs to focus on what those who are in attendance are becoming like.  Are they growing and being conformed more and more into Christ’s image?  Do they know what it means to be a disciple?  Have they been given a road map for discipleship?  These are some of the questions that the disciple-making pastor must consider.

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